Dear colleagues and friends,
I am very pleased to be here to kick off this important Road Transport Conference. I am also very pleased to see that so many have turned up despite the difficult and tragic circumstances here in Brussels. A special welcome also to those following today's conference via web-streaming. The Purpose of today's event is to present and discuss the forthcoming road initiatives. These initiatives will support the transport sector in providing competitive services for people and for businesses. The Commission has begun preparing the foundations for a new set of road initiatives. Crucially, we count on your engagement and your feedback. Your participation in the workshops as well as in the panel discussion will assist the Commission in preparing targeted and value-added proposals.
So many stakeholders are represented today:
- Vehicle Manufacturers
- Member States's administrations
- NGO in many sectors who have an interest in road,
- Trade Unions
- Infrastructure owners … To mention only a few.
This will allow us to hear a wide range of views and fruitful discussions. Clear and common rules are important for operators and workers, to allow transport operators to be as efficient as possible, supporting European jobs and growth, in transport directly and in sectors reliant on transport.
Let me first outline the context of the Road Initiatives. President Juncker has identified ten overall priorities for the European Commission during this mandate. Our Road Initiatives directly contribute to these priorities, namely:
- Deepening the Internal Market
- Building the Energy Union while tackling Climate Change
- Creating the Digital Single Market
These lead to increased jobs and growth and also strengthen Europe's role as a global actor. The road initiatives will result in
- improved energy efficiency,
- reduced CO2 emissions,
- more fairness,
- increased competitiveness,
- job creation,
- and new investment opportunities.
A strong transport sector is also necessary to support EU economy as a whole, to increase the competitiveness of our industry and our global presence. Transport can have a large impact on logistics costs. So, we really need to make sure that it keeps developing and we deliver value. How can we make this a reality?
1. A Well-functioning internal market
Firstly, we need a well-functioning and fully integrated Internal Market for road transport to support people and businesses. Transport operations are cross-border for a large part, which is why we need common rules in all EU countries. Different rules create uncertainties, administrative burdens and costs for operators – many of whom are SMEs.
Unfortunately, we are seeing a tendency in Member States to implement their own rules. Different rules in different countries are problematic for transport operators who very often operate in several countries on a daily basis. This may endanger the single market. Operators have to keep track of all these different rules in order to be compliant and to avoid fines. This is not what we envisaged as an internal market.
So why are Member States implementing their own rules? This is an important question, which I hope will be discussed today. The Commission has already gathered evidence showing that current rules are unclear. Take the example of cabotage. There is almost unanimity among stakeholders that the current rules are unclear and simply cannot be enforced.
By ensuring better enforcement of EU rules, the Road Initiatives could help to establish a well-functioning Internal Market for road transport. Instead of Member States each trying to clarify the EU rules, this should be done at the EU level to maintain a level playing field.
2. Rights of Workers
A second challenge relates to the rights of transport workers. This is particularly challenging in the transport sector with workers being highly mobile. For example, which salary should drivers be paid when working in 10 different countries during the same month? And how should we enforce such rules?
The EU must respond effectively to the concerns of citizens, workers and businesses. We must inspire a confidence in citizens that the Single Market is protecting and empowering them.
It is clear that if a driver stays in a country for a long period, or carries out activities in a given country regularly, then this driver should receive the minimum salary of the country in question. On the other hand, I would like to emphasise that any national measures to protect workers should not be allowed to adversely affect the Internal Market for road transport, for example to protect national interests.
It is crucial to find the right balance between adequate protection of workers' rights and the correct functioning of the Internal Market for road transport.
On the subject of enforcement, I will take part in a road-side check later today, where I will speak with enforcement officers from Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands. My aim is to understand the problems enforcement officers face on the ground.
3. The Environment
A third area to be looked at is the environment.
We have a serious challenge. If transport grows then its impact on Climate Change grows too. In 2013, GHG emissions from transport (excluding international maritime) represented about 22% of total emissions compared to 15% in 1990. Transport is therefore a sector with a significant role in energy and climate policy.
I was delighted to attend the Paris COP 21 conference, where Agreement was reached between 196 Parties. Now is the time to build on that political momentum to ensure that the EU delivers on its announced actions and ambitions under the 'Energy Union', in order to decarbonise transport.So how can our road initiatives contribute to reducing the negative effects of road transport while maintaining competitive transport services for businesses and people?
Decarbonisation of transport will require measures aimed at promoting low carbon technologies for vehicles, alternative energy sources but also improving the efficiency of transport operations.
In this respect, road charging has a very strong potential. We have to remember that the road transport sector is very competitive and very cost-conscious. If road charges were properly designed to reward the cleanest trucks, then road operators would undoubtedly be encouraged to buy these to remain competitive. This would also benefit the environment and ultimately EU citizens. I call this a win – win - win situation!
This being said, road charges today do not provide such clear and coherent incentives to road operators. Member States are setting road charges based on different parameters and with different costs. In one Member State it may be cheaper to use a certain type of Heavy Goods Vehicle whereas in another Member State but not in another. This does not support optimal investment decisions in the cleanest possible Heavy Goods Vehicles.
4. Digital Technologies
Technology can provide a big contribution to transport and road transport in particular. We have already been investing in ITS to make road transport more efficient and environmentally friendly. But at the same time, if not properly managed, it could turn out to create new problems: If you look at a map, you will see a patchwork of different systems each requiring the use of different on-board devices. This explains why operators need at least dozen on-board devices to drive on all tolled EU roads. This is cumbersome and costly. An integrated, interoperable digital solution is the way forward. And we try to do all that is possible to make it happen.
We must eliminate the current patchwork and ensure interoperability between tolling systems. The Technology is ready. There are plenty of available solutions available. The biggest obstacle we face is the protection of national markets where traditionally there has been no competition.
I believe we can learn from the world of mobile telephony and the solutions it provides for roaming, which show many similarities with electronic tolls. Some key lessons to be learned relate to the importance of standards and of strong independent regulators, as well as other rules that facilitated roaming.
Paving the way for interoperable tolling systems in the EU will provide room for digital and technical innovation. Rethinking the current patchwork will also allow tolling providers to provide other value-added services to better manage their businesses.
We can go even further: Heavy Goods Vehicles of tomorrow will be connected to the internet, the so-called internet of things. There are already trials ongoing of trucks driving in platoons through Europe, and at some stage Heavy Goods Vehicles may be able – and allowed – to drive autonomously. All these technological innovations, which also provide new possibilities for road tolling, are clearly the future.
Safety is another area that will benefit from the internet of things and advances in ITS. We must enable the use of innovative and digital means of control, for example, the smart tachograph together with e-documents. We must also become better at cooperating between Member States by exchanging information to better target potential offenders, so that genuine law-abiding operators can travel hassle-free.
I would like to conclude by underlining the importance of the road initiatives for a well-functioning, competitive, fair, clean and innovative transport sector.
Transport is essential for the functioning of supply chains and for enabling the free movement of goods and people – two of the founding principles of the European Union. Market integration, economic growth and transport activity are strongly related. In the EU, efficient transport connections have facilitated the creation and deepening of the internal market. Transport infrastructure investments boost economic growth; create wealth; enhance trade, geographical accessibility and the mobility of people. The demand for road transport has kept increasing due to its competitiveness, to its capacity to improve accessibility and to adjust to the demand from its customers… It needs to continue that way.
Therefore, I invite you all to provide your inputs and ideas during the conference today or later during the foreseen public consultations. It is by working together, and by taking all views into account that we can develop policy proposals that are well-suited to both businesses and to people.
I wish you all an interesting and successful conference today. Thank you.